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16                             THE GAY GENIUS

On the central panel of one of the rooms in the house hung a portrait
of a certain fairy by the name of Chang. The father of the baby, who
was now twenty-seven and going through the greatest spiritual crisis
of his life, had seen this portrait at one of the markets and had got it
by offering a jade bracelet for it to the dealer. He had prayed to this
fairy every morning for the last seven years. His wife had given birth
to a girl several years ago and to the boy who died in infancy. He
had always wanted a boy, and now his wish was granted. He mu^t
have been happy; and yet we know that he was suffering from a sense
of terrific shame and torment.

It was a fairly well-to-do family, owning lands and perhaps richer
than the average middle-class family. There were at least two maid-
servants, and besides, the family was able to afford a wet nurse for Su
Tungpo and his elder sister. When the younger brother was born, they
were able to hire another wet nurse, and these two nurses remained
according to Chinese custom for the rest of their lives with the children
they had brought up to maturity.

At this time of Su Tungpo's birth, the grandfather was still living
and was sixty-three years old. In his young days he had been a tall,
handsome man, hale and hearty, given to drink, big-hearted and
generous. One day when Su Tungpo was the acknowledged first
scholar of his time and was acting as secretary to the emperor, he moved
into a new residence close to the palace. Some of his close friends and
admirers came to visit him, and as it happened to be his grandfather's
birthday, he began to tell them certain amusing incidents about this^
curious old man. He was jwholly illiterate, but a rather extraordinary
personality. At that time they were living out in the country and
owned large tracts of land. But instead of storing up rice in the way
everybody did usually, he exchanged it for unhusked rice and stored it
up to the amount of £hirty or forty thousand bushels in his granary.
People could not understand why he was doing this. Then a famine
came, and the grandfather opened the granary and began to distribute
the unhusked rice first to his own immediate family and relatives, then
to his wife's relatives, then to the tenant farmers, and then to the poor
of the village. Now people understood why he had accumulated the
unhusked rice—it would keep for years, whereas husked rice would
spoil in wet weather. Being carefree and well provided, he would often*
pick up, a wine jug and go about with his friends to sit on the grass and
enjoy himself. They would laugh and drink and sing, to the amaze-
ment of the usually quiet and well-behaved peasants.

One day during a carousal an important piece o£ news arrived. His
second son, Su Tungpo's uncle, had passed the imperial examinations.
There was another family in the neighbourhood whose son had also
passed the same examinations. This Was the family of Su Tungpo's